Spring work

Spring is moving along and the grass with it–so mowing and slashing is the order of the day. I belong to the ‘slash twice’ school–early spring, early summer, before the fire season–because I like to get on top of it and get it as clean as possible. There is also the issue of spring snakes, who tend to be irritable after winter and mating, and so on–best to see them coming. There is a ‘slash once’ school–late spring–but we twicers regard them as mere penny-pinchers, trading off quality. . .


And finally the old windmill has come down! Lesley is pleased as the squeaking wheel has stopped–fair enough. It’s going to a good home–the young mechanic in town, Edge, and his lady Kelly are taking it off to put on their block when they purchase it. In exchange Edge is advising/demonstrating/fixing tractor maintenance/repair, and given that he is a tractor-whisperer this is a very fair exchange. So now I’m just using the submersible pump at the bore, run off the generator, but the idea is to move to a solar panel operation before too long.

Taking the windmill down was quite an event–me, Edge, and Gary. I was for the conservative option, dismantling it piece by piece from the top, but Gary came through with the radical option, lower it in one piece and dismantle it on the ground. There was the inevitable conversation, “Can’t do it that way, need a rope over there. . .”, “you’ll wreck it if you don’t”, and so on. But it got done and without wrecking the wheel. Edge flew a drone over the event as it was happening and has video of it–I’ll post the link when it’s up.

The last shot here shows the new view–bit of a shock to the system, I know. . .

You’ll see an old wrought-iron bath sitting there–it belongs to Lesley–you will need to consult her for information about it. . .

And here are some spring lights:


Spring orchids under the old ti-trees:



First slashing with the rehabilitated old tractor. You can also see some posts around an asparagus patch that Lesley has planted.


Bush flowering

In the middle of this polar blast we’re currently experiencing I thought it would be good to record the fact that the bush is going into its early spring flowering–which may turn out to be somewhat premature, but given that it has tens of thousands of years of evolution packed into it is probably going to turn out all right. So here are some pictures, taken before this latest turn in the weather:



Stairway to heaven

Lesley asked me to put up some photos of the steps–which are, as you will have gathered, limestone blocks. They are the local material–a deep limestone stratum called the Otway Basin underlays the whole district, an inheritance from the time of retreating shorelines. We thank all the tiny marine molluscs who contributed their shells after they were finished with them. It’s very easy to cut so has always been a preferred stone for building down here–being quite porous it is also an excellent insulator. However, as noted in previous posts, when wet it becomes heavy and that was a challenge here.

I did learn a lot doing this. You would think, simple, cut the ground put the stone down, move on. However, there turned out to be many little things you have to get right, and when you get them wrong you have to start again, so you have to be careful and patient. Getting it level, particularly on a semi-landing where you are working with four blocks, is particularly challenging. Still, it got done in the end and Lesley has cleaned it all, and is pleased with the way it weathers in different colours and blends into the overall design; so here it is–stairway to heaven.




Paving and steps finished!

Well, a lot of work later it’s pretty much done.  Lesley takes the credit for most of it. Among other things she seems to have a remarkable eye not only for design but for level–all of the pavers were laid without the use of a level, and they are flat! I did the steps, with the limestones blocks–but I had to use a level, and even then took some time to work out how best to do it. Anyway, it’s done, and now the planting is progressing–as you can see here, mainly water-wise natives.



The first photo here is the last action of joining the paving to the steps–it was very close, by some stroke of luck, and was completed with a couple of inches of shellgrit.

The posts in the last photo are temporary, being designed to train Joey to walk on the pavers and steps rather than the garden!–he’s getting the hang of it.

The story of the Saw

This is a posting about the Saw–my Saw. The story is a bit longer than most but I’ve put pictures in to keep you interested. Saws go with wood, and wood with wood stoves, one of which we have installed in the interests of surviving the southern winter. However, recapitulating the logic, a stove needs a constant supply of wood; which must be cut; hence the Saw. Do you see, best Beloved? (my brothers will give you the reference).

I myself use a hand saw. This is it:



I bought it from the local hardware store for $16 (as in, sixteen–are you kidding?). It is a Bahco saw, and was made in Sweden–Swedish steel, Swedish design, Swedish damn good. It is certainly the sharpest saw I’ve ever owned. I cut all the wood for the stove with it–every day. There are saws that are rusted, or dull, or missing teeth, or loose in the handle, but this is not one of them.  This is a Saw. It’s not even very long, as you can see from the gloves. It is, however, practically perfect.

Remarkably there are those who scoff at this practice and think me eccentric. The Brains Trust, with whom I have coffee in the morning, are incredulous: get a chainsaw, get a life! And there are others (I name no names). Indeed, I respond equably. I have used them. I know them for what they are. You have to keep the chain sharp, which is a fiddly, lengthy and annoying task; you have to fit it correctly and constantly check the tension; you have to use it correctly, cutting right up against the handle; you definitely have to miss hidden nails and bolts; you have to wrestle with it when you hit a knot to prevent it from twisting out of your hands and landing on some part of your anatomy; you have to mix the right fuel and feed it constantly with bar oil; you have to keep the plug clean and hope that it starts without breaking the rope. They are also loud and annoying, so you have to wear hearing protectors, and they scare off everything in earshot. And of course things can go wrong and when they do there is little room to work with, and. . .well, enough said. As we know on these latter grounds they are associated with improbable but less than salutary movies. I don’t, it should be clear by now, like them.

My Swedish cross-cut saw, however, has only to be picked up to be used. It cuts sweetly if you use it correctly: keep it upright and straight; don’t press down, let it cut by itself; keep the teeth engaged; use the full length of the cutting edge; cut with an even stroke; don’t rush; keep your thumb clear. Enjoy the process. You won’t even be out of breath.  There is something respectful about it; one is grateful that the tree got going–do you know how hard it is for one seed to get itself fertilised and find a conducive place?–and has spent all those years making a living. We appreciate that and cut accordingly. We do not–I cast no aspersions–assault it with a loud, smelly, dangerous machine.  Ours, best Beloved, is the art and craft of cutting wood with a good cross-cut saw.

I’ve been cutting, among other kinds of trees, a big, old, dead but still upright sheoak (Casuarina stricta), an ancient species that reproduces dioeciously (there are male trees and female trees and the wind drifts pollen from one to the other) and is found pretty much everywhere in Australia, including across the inland. Its wood has a beautiful grain and is exceptionally hard. It burns with more heat than red gum or pink gum and that’s saying something.

So here I am cutting a branch from the tree. You can see how substantial it is. Here it is vertically:



And here I am beginning to work on it:



I saw steadily for about ten minutes, stopping perhaps twice. The birds are watching with interest (see, chainsaw losers! the birds stay, they don’t flee as though pursued by an axe murderer–no, that’s another movie, same thing).  After a while it begins to creak and I step back out of the way (falling logs can twist and turn as they fall and bounce when they land). The branch wavers for a while in the wind and then cracks and falls.




I cut some of the upper branches for the evening stove:



And that is the story of the Saw, best Beloved–a little part of each day I look forward to–a modest pleasure, but my own.

New work on paving

Here is the developing paving work–laid by Lesley, with me bringing in the pavers ie. the design and look of it is all down to her. I’m about to start work on building a landing for the limestone block steps, with the larger pavers–then the steps can be finished.

Here is Lesley at work (in freezing weather, without gloves–don’t ask!):


Here are some of the recent results:

There are two types of pavers, as you can see–the smaller ones were kindly donated by Gary, and larger ones shipped in from Mount Gambier–and brought right out to the block with a forklift by a very obliging driver, probably over 2 kilometres down the track.

There are also two garden boxes which have come in, mainly for herbs and vegetables.

You can also see various plants going in gradually–mainly native grasses, well-adapted to sandy soil and requiring little water.